The vital lessons I learnt about caring for the planet from a group of Ethiopian farmers, just in time for International Mother Earth Day.
Once upon a time, long before supermarkets and the ‘What will we have for dinner?’ panic existed, was a world where people actually knew where their food came from. As I walk through the aisles and the bright fluorescent light shines off the glossy packaging of the perfectly clean vegetables, I realise I’ve become incredibly disconnected from the source of my food.
I grew up in Northern Ireland. That meant the ‘spud man’ used to come to my front door with a freshly dug 15 kg bag of soil-ridden potatoes. It would also not be unusual to attend a friend’s birthday party, eat the cake that was made with her chicken’s eggs, and then wash it down with a glass of unpasteurised milk fresh from the udder that day.
Despite the desperate attempt to convince you that I was once in touch with nature, I am very aware that I have never had to graft for the food on my plate. This has led to personal bad habits including large amounts of food waste, excessive food packaging waste and taking for granted that I can access food at any time without having to physically work for it.
Because, for many of us, we are not the ones physically pulling the banana off the tree, or digging the sweet potato up from the ground, I think we fail to realise that the environment we are damaging is the same environment that our food comes from.
People who do realise this are a group of farmers that live in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. They are receiving training and support from All We Can’s local partners as their land has completely changed over the last couple of decades due to climate change. The land that once was fertile has “dried and the soil has cracked.” Dametau, a local farmer explained, “When the rain comes it erodes the soil and it can easily be washed away.”
These Ethiopian farmers rely on their land, not just for food but for their entire livelihood, therefore they are doing all they can to preserve that land. They realise there is a need to nurture the land, and by doing so they are nurturing one another. Yeshewas says, “If we preserve the area the soil can become healthy. This will produce high crop yields so the community can become fully sufficient. Through vegetables we can get vitamins and also energy for our body so we become healthy.”
To preserve the land the group plant trees, Dametau says, “The land needs clothes too – it needs a forest.”
In showing so much care for the environment, they are also showing care for one another and their community. If you love people, you should love the environment you live in too, it all links together.Unfortunately, there have already been consequences of our careless actions, and Yeshewas explains, “In richer countries, they release polluted air unless we plant trees that polluted air will increase the effects of climate change here. So we need to plant trees that moderate the high temperature because plants reduce carbon dioxide.”
Let us come together to think about how we source our food, how we manage our waste and how we care for people and the planet as one. Terefe explains this vital link between nature and humans. He said, “I love trees… we inhale oxygen and release carbon dioxide – there’s an exchange between us and the tree. Really… we love each other.”
Need some tips on how you can help out Terefe and the other farmers by acting against climate change? Visit https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/takeaction/
Happy Mother Earth Day from All We Can!